Digital death

Today is traditionally the day of mourning for your dead. People would visit their deceased and in fact my childhood memory abounds of these sad strolls through silent pathways in Milan’s cemeteries to go visit our relatives to rekindle their memory and talk about their time with us.

This holiday gave way to a more rational distribution of holidays in a (vain) quest for productivity increases, and since a few years Nov. 2nd is just another working day, meaning the ritual got somehow diluted. But I just realized this morning that my relationship with “my” dead, i.e. the people that have played a role in my life and are no longer here is becoming very much different.

For example, I am reluctant to delete from my address book the cell number of Judy or Francesco or Franco, just to name a few of them; this mans that when the number gets reassigned I have potentially the risk of getting a call from the grave by one of these people. At the same time I do have a number of pictures, emails, documents stored in my digital life where these people played a role; not to mention their Facebook, LinkedIn or Flickr accounts.

I think the Digital Self needs to take into account the fact that most of it survives the author, in theory indefinitely: the deceased do not go away, and in fact their wisdom continues to help all of us, at for as long as a search engine can index it and bring it up when needed, and in fact googling “digital cemetery” yields hundreds of results, equally shared between computer scrapyards and projects to create permanent galleries of our dead using digital content.

Humans have perhaps satisfied their crave to leave a trace that will survive their spoils: long a dream of emperors, and achieved only by a handful of those who walked the planet, it is now readily available to even the humblest of citizens. What is perhaps missing is a field in our Facebook or LinkedIn profiles:

Born: 14 sep 1956

Died: ?? ??? ????

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